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Sunday, February 20, 2011

NRLC and NCRTL Commend U.S. House for Vote to Cut Federal Funds from "Bloated Abortion Mega-Marketer  Planned Parenthood"
WASHINGTON (February 18, 2011) -- The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nationwide federation of state right-to-life organizations,  and its state affiliate North Carolina Right to Life  (NCRTL) express strong approval that the U.S. House of Representatives today adopted, 240-185,  an amendment offered by Congressman Mike Pence (R-In.) to cut off federal funds to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and 102 named PPFA affiliates.
"This landmark vote demonstrates that most House members now recognize Planned Parenthood is a hyper-political, under-regulated, out-of-control mega-marketer of abortion as a method of birth control," said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.
In a letter to House members, NRLC said, "PPFA is the nation’s largest abortion provider, reporting 324,008 abortions in 2008. . . . According to press reports, PPFA has recently mandated that all of its regional affiliates must provide abortions by the end of 2013.  Recent media reports regarding abuses associated with PPFA-affiliated clinics in multiple states provide additional justifications for the amendment."
The allegations regarding abuses, uncovered by independent journalists posing as sex traffickers, have received substantial coverage in mainstream news media in recent weeks, including this story in the New York Times.
The Pence Amendment does not affect the funding level for any federal program.  Instead, it disqualifies PPFA and its named affiliates from receiving any type of federal funds.
(In a 2010 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected a claim that a similar law, cutting off federal funds for the organization ACORN and its affiliates, violated the Constitution's Bill of Attainder Clause.)  PPFA affiliates receive about one-third of their aggregate clinic-level income from selling abortions.   PPFA has a total annual budget of about $1.1 billion, of which about one-third comes from various levels of government, including at least $88.7 million in a year (2008) from the federal government.
The Pence Amendment was added to H.R. 1, a measure to fund all federal agencies through September 30, 2011.  The bill contains a number of other pro-life provisions supported by NRLC, including a provision to restore a policy (overturned by President Obama) denying U.S. foreign aid funds to certain organizations that promote abortion as a method of birth control, and a provision restoring a previous ban on the use of congressionally appropriated funds for abortion on demand in the Federal district (Washington, D.C.), where abortion is currently allowed without any limitation.
The abortion-related provisions will next be considered in the U.S. Senate -- where 33 seats, 23 of them currently held by Democrats or independents who caucus with the Democrats, will be on next year's general election ballot.
 "Now senators, too, will go on record on whether to push the snout of this bloated abortion mega-marketer, Planned Parenthood, out of the U.S. Treasury feeding trough," said NRLC's Johnson.
Any differences that emerge between the House and Senate versions of the funding bill will become subjects for negotiations between the two houses, and with the White House.
Recommended further reading regarding PPFA's accelerating efforts to increase its abortion "market share":  "Planned Parenthood:  Building an Abortion Empire," by Randall K. O'Bannon, Ph.D., here; and "Planned Parenthood's Unseemly Empire:  The Billion-Dollar 'Nonprofit'," by Charlotte Allen, here.

NC Members of Congress voting to "De-Fund" Planned Parenthood:
Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-2), Walter Jones (R-3), Virginia Foxx (R-5), Howard Coble (R-6), Mike McIntyre (D-7), Sue Myrick (R-9), Patrick McHenry (R-10), and Heath Shuler (D-11).

N C Members voting to continue to "Fund" Planned Parenthood:
Reps. G. K. Butterfield (D-1), David Price (D-4), Larry Kissell (D-8), Mel Watt (D-12), and Brad Miller (D-13).

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Future of Abortion Jurisprudence

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Future of Abortion Jurisprudence 
Part One of Five

By Mary Spaulding Balch, JD
NRLC Director of State Legislation
Mary Spaulding Balch, JD
It would be difficult to overstate the historic importance of Nebraska's 2010 Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the first state law to present the Supreme Court with the opportunity to bring its abortion jurisprudence into the 21st Century. The law is grounded in a moral empathy that resonates with the American people: "You don't kill unborn children capable of feeling pain." Basing its conclusion on an enormous body of medical research (literally hundreds of studies), this first-of-its kind law conservatively sets the demarcation at 20 weeks.
So why, after publicly hinting it was just a matter of time, have pro-abortion organizations not challenged the law in court? Quite probably because pro-abortionists appreciate that when abortion's brutal realities overcome the gauzy generalities about "choice," the public opinion needle moves in the direction of life. That is precisely what happened in the long, long debate over partial-birth abortion. Better than most, abortion advocates understand that you don't need coursework in fetal anatomy to sense that at twenty weeks babies will suffer excruciating pain as they are being torn apart. Furthermore they understand that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act could not have passed had today's scientific understanding about and public awareness of the unborn child not advanced leaps and bounds from 1973 when the United States Supreme Court handed down its infamous Roe v. Wade Decision. Sonograms of the once nearly invisible unborn child are now plastered on refrigerators all over the world.
There are ironies galore, but none more stark than this. Pro-abortionists forever tell us that pro-lifers want to "take us back." In fact what makes the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act so dangerous to Roe is that it demands preciously the opposite. Rather than freezing our understanding of fetal development at what was available to the High Court 38 years ago, the law says, "Come, let's see what we know now that we didn't know then." And seeing is believing, which is why abortion proponents are so dead-set against the passage of laws which make it possible for abortion-vulnerable women to see an ultrasound of their unborn babies. "Informed choice" is the last thing abortion clinic personnel are looking for.
Forty years ago, the unborn child virtually did not exist in medicine. "Fetal medicine" was an oxymoron. Our understanding of pain was so primitive that even a newborn undergoing surgery did so without anesthesia! They received only a paralytic to keep them still.
The use of ultrasound was introduced in the late '70s. The possibility of literally seeing the unborn child opened the eyes not only of parents but of doctors, allowing them to diagnose problems that heretofore were only known in newborns. The concept of the unborn child as a patient was born. It was the beginning of a subspecialty that we know today as fetal medicine. With the ability to see this new patient came in utero surgery--the ability to save premature unborn children at earlier and earlier intervals. Once highly experimental, fetal surgery is now a frequent occurrence at several hospitals around the country.
As recent as last Wednesday night, ABC News ran an important investigative piece on fetal surgery which is likely soon to become standard care for some conditions such as spina bifida.
We can see in retrospect that two lines of investigation were intersecting. On one axis doctors were observing that when pricked by a needle, even the most premature babies grimaced. On the other axis, physicians saw that unborn children could experience pain, due to the ever-increasing use of fetal surgery. The question arose: at what point in fetal development is the child capable of experiencing pain?
In 2005, Congressional hearings were held on the issue of unborn children's pain. Expert witnesses included Jean A. Wright, M.D., MBA, and such as Dr. K. J. S. Anand. Dr. Wright testified "an unborn fetus after 20 weeks of gestation has all the prerequisite anatomy, physiology, hormones, neurotransmitters, and electrical current to close the loop and create the conditions needed to perceive pain." Subsequently Dr. Anand, currently a Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, & Neurobiology at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, said in a document accepted as expert by a federal court, "It is my opinion that the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks of gestation, if not earlier, and that pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by newborns or older children."
Is there evidence that the Supreme Court is aware of all this? There is clear evidence Justice Kennedy is. Justice Kennedy has described the gruesome nature of the most common abortion technique used in the second trimester, dilation and evacuation or D & E, in terms that make clear that it would be extremely painful: "[F]riction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus . . . ." he wrote in the 2007 case of Gonzales v. Carhart. Justice Kennedy used even more graphic descriptions of D&E abortions in his dissent in Stenberg v. Carhart, "The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: It bleeds to death as it is torn limb from limb."
In Gonzales v. Carhart, the decision upholding the federal ban on partial-birth abortions, Justice Kennedy also dealt with two other issues germane to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. He wrote
"In a decision so fraught with emotional consequence some doctors may prefer not to disclose precise details of the means that will be used, confining themselves to the required statement of risks the procedure entails. . . . It is, however, precisely this lack of information concerning the way in which the fetus will be killed that is of legitimate concern to the State. . . . It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast-developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form."
What Justice Kennedy for the Court stated to be true with regard to partial-birth abortion--its impact on the mother, and the State's interest--may equally be applied to those abortions performed when the unborn child is capable of experiencing, and does experience, pain from the abortion technique.
Equally important, Kennedy (widely understood to be the decisive fifth vote in abortion cases) wrote in Gonzales that "it is inappropriate for the Judicial Branch to provide an exhaustive list of state interests implicated by abortion."
The Justices have never addressed the issue of an unborn child's pain. If/when they do it would be a case of 'first impression,' as lawyers put it. Recognizing a compelling state interest in the unborn child who is capable of experiencing pain would not require the Court to overturn, but only to supplement, its prior recognition of a compelling "state interest" in the unborn child after viability. The federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was upheld in Gonzales, although it made no distinction based on viability. As Justice Kennedy wrote, "The [Partial-Birth Abortion Ban] Act does apply both previability and postviability because, by common understanding and scientific terminology, a fetus is a living organism while within the womb, whether or not it is viable outside the womb."
It is critically important to understand that the interest asserted here is not just one in diminishing or eliminating the unborn children's pain during an abortion.
Rather, it is that the unborn child's capacity to experience pain is a significant developmental milepost, making the unborn child at that point sufficiently akin to an infant or older child to trigger a compelling state interest.
The stage of development at which the unborn child is capable of experiencing pain is at least as "clear" and arguably more "workable" in comparison with viability. While viability is predominately an extrinsic measurement of the capacity of medical science to sustain the life of a premature infant, the capacity to feel pain is an intrinsic, innate feature of the unborn child at a particular stage of development.
While no one can definitively predict how the majority of the Supreme Court, and in particular Justice Kennedy, would rule on the constitutionality of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the evolving development of the High Court's abortion litigation, and particularly its decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, leads us to this conclusion. There may well be receptivity to a well-documented effort to demonstrate the reasonableness of recognizing the reality of fetal pain by 20 weeks post-fertilization, and the justification for acting to minimize it by preventing abortions not necessary to avert death or substantial and long-lasting physical impairment of a major bodily organ from 20 weeks on.